The Origin of the World: irresistibly funny, cheerfully mischievous [critique]

We knew Laurent Lafitte to be funny and unique. However, we didn’t expect his debut film to be as provocative and surreal, like Buñuel on cocaine.

Are today’s audiences ready for Laurent Laffite? We can ask ourselves the question as the universe of the resident of the Comédie Française is disturbing, shocking, impertinent, divisive, in a word unconventional. Single thought is not his thing, he who is part of a minority trend in France, the one that goes from Albert Dupontel to Quentin Dupieux. The pitch of his first feature film (adapted from the eponymous play by Sébastien Thiéry) is as crazy as it sounds. Jean-Louis, quadra married to Valérie, whom he is not sure to love (and vice versa), realizes that his heart is no longer beating. Jean-Louis breathes, runs, yet lives. His best veterinarian friend, Michel, does not understand anything, no more than Valérie who urges him to meet Margaux, his holistic live coach whose sentence is final: Jean-Louis must bring him a photo of his mother’s sex so that she can cure him of his motor problem. However, Jean-Louis has not spoken to his father for years. His quest is likely to be complicated.

In The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, Luis Buñuel gave six guests a meal that was repeated without ever ending. Behind the absurd farce loomed a parable on the unconscious and its fantastic-nightmarish twists and turns which assign man to his primary impulses. In The origin of the world, same story (except the unity of place: here we go from one apartment or from one office to another): Jean-Louis, with the help of Valérie and Michel, will try several times to succeed in the impossible. How do you just ask your mother to shoot her vagina? Starting from this assumption as stupid as it is awkward, Laurent Lafitte imagines a series of frankly hilarious scenes in which the most trashy vaudeville disputes him with a terribly biting character study: Jean-Louis is selfish, manipulative and cynical; Valérie, a bohemian in love with far-fetched theories on self-knowledge; Michel, a weak being who only exists through Jean-Louis; the mother, an evaporated woman with questionable morals and scathing repartees (“I know that Valérie is older than you but we only have one mother”). The confrontation of these psychologically wobbly beings, of these Italian “monsters”, is the promise of a cruel puppet theater that Laffite likes to push into its worst entrenchments.

With his notoriety and the high esteem in which his peers hold him, Laurent Lafitte has assembled the best possible cast for this explosive comedy which risks being talked about for its audacity and crudeness. For example, would anyone other than himself have obtained incredible nudity from Karin Viard? The actress (who plays Valérie), Vincent Macaigne (Michel), Hélène Vincent (the mother) and Nicole Garcia (the coach guru) have certainly not been used as well for a long time in jobs they know but Lafitte takes you elsewhere, to something less stereotypical, really embarrassing. The actor-director, for his part, has reserved the least pleasant role, the most daredevil scenes. Where there is embarrassment, there is pleasure it seems to mean to a France entangled in endless moral and identity debates. The origin of the world, beneath its quirky, meticulously staged, existential author’s comedy is a little time bomb just begging to blow you in the face. Are you ready for Laurent Lafitte?

By Laurent Lafitte. With Laurent Lafitte, Karin Viard, Hélène Vincent … Duration: 1h38. Release September 15, 2021

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